re: Journalists’ Ethics

February 25th, 2013 by abbe diaz


Quora asks: What are some of the worst breaches of journalists’ ethics?

(Ha ha ha ha ahaa is that just a field day waiting to be had or what.)

Fred Landis has done a nice job of identifying some of the worst cases in recent history; I would only add the widespread illegal phone-tapping of journalistic targets by Rupert Murdoch’s empire to his list. These cases are widely known and certainly do comprise some of the most offensive and atrocious occurrences. However, I would like to posit that there must be countless other situations that might never be revealed to the general public, or at least have nowhere near the chance of gaining the same exposure as these monumental instances.

For example, I personally have been the victim of blatant breaches of journalistic ethics several times. True, they certainly wouldn’t qualify as some of the worst examples, but I do firmly assert that the injustices imposed upon me by the media have dire implications. I am neither famous, powerful, nor influential— so if the media can so strenuously fuck with a piddling little nobody like me, imagine the global ramifications of such a thing.


To wit, I offer up my own individual examples, some of which were perpetrated by several of Quora’s (albeit somewhat inactive) members, even! :

– Did Choire Sicha, former editor of Gawker, collude with former New York Times food critic Frank Bruni to misappropriate the subject matter in my book, for their own glorification and/or personal gain?

In June of 2004, I purchased a short-running advertising spot within Gawker’s sidebar to help publicize my book, PX This – Diary of the "Maitre d’ to the Stars" [nee Diary of the Potted Plant]. Within several weeks of that advertisement, an article titled “My Year at a Hotspot” suddenly appeared in The New York Times, ostensibly written by a restaurant hostess named Coco Henson Scales. (Coincidentally, Scales’s essay centered around a restaurant called Hue, operated by my friend Karim Amatullah, who was rather prominently portrayed in my book, which is a four-year daily diary.)

Gawker Editor Choire Sicha declares the article the "best celebrity venality exposé ever!" and goes on to exhort, "If Gawker had a required reading syllabus, it would consist entirely of this article." He then further exalts the article by declaring Coco Scales "The People’s Hero" on his personal blog as well, (apparently semi-defunct).

Within hours of Sicha’s editorial, "fans" of PX This (anywhere from 15 to 35 people) send e-mails to Sicha drawing attention to my book and website, with at least one pointing out my status as a former Gawker advertiser. I, myself, forward a recent mention of my book in the NY Daily News directly to Sicha. Sicha replies to me via e-mail (and evidently, at least one "enthusiast") but, despite referring to himself as my “big fan,” fails to publicly acknowledge the existence of my book in any way.

Later, after the further publication of that very same article in a book of short stories curated by Ira Glass titled The Kings of Non Fiction, it is somehow revealed that the climax of Coco Scales’s riveting narrative (featuring Chelsea Clinton and Monica Lewisnsky) was, in fact, completely fictional.

This, in turn, naturally lead to speculation as to how a fictional essay (by a young, inexperienced, previously unknown, previously unpublished writer) could possibly appear in the New York Times as a non-fictional feature in the first place— upon which it is astoundingly discovered that former Gawker editor Choire Sicha "dated [New York] Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni for a few months" (as revealed by New York magazine).

Incidentally, to this day, brilliant young fledgling New York Times published (and Ira Glass curated) scribe Coco Henson Scales, has written absolutely nothing since that one "heroic" essay. Not a book, short story, blog entry, commercial jingle, nor fucking bubble gum wrapper.

Odd, no? Yeah, I thought so too. I began to surmise that perhaps Choire Sicha himself had ghost-written that article and submitted it to the Times himself via his connection to Times food critic Frank Bruni. I further surmised that his motive for doing so would be to "option" it for screen release, exactly as other stories in the press had been contemporaneously sold.

A clear violation of proper disclosure, at the very least.

Which is why I then attempted to hire a freelance writer to do some investigative work and pen an evaluation of his/her findings. I offered up a payment of $1,000.00 for said assessment. At which point, Gawker writer and Slacktory editor Nick Douglas cheekily announced on his website:

"ATTENTION SLACKTORY WRITERS: Any of you who take this job will be summarily fired, and your health insurance will be retroactively revoked. I have orders straight from [Gawker Media head honcho] Nick Denton, for whom I still obviously work."


And that’s just kinda the the tip of the iceberg. Quite frankly, in my opinion, "breach" of ethics doesn’t even begin to describe this obscenity.

– Now how about some of Gawker’s other affronts?

Several years after this incident, Gawker writer Joshua David Stein pens a screed titled "Is Abbe Diaz Behind Another Crazy Food Blog Scandal?" (as shown above).

And within this awesomely brilliant specimen of journalism, Stein accuses me of being a whole other anonymous blogger, using such lovely objective descriptors of my work as "invective-laced," "crazy tirades," and "pure unbridled crazy batshitness." He closes with the argument, "Either Diaz is actually secretly capable of stringing together words into sentences using syntax and grammar, or there’s another someone out there bursting with the same vitriol and petty anger and all the same enemies as Ms Diaz but who is maybe a little more cognizant of the English language."
[Let’s never mind that my book was exalted by some of the world’s most illustrious restaurateurs, such as Bobby Flay and Drew Nieporent, and was widely recognized by New York fine-dining laborers as "the bible of the industry."]

Unfortunately for Joshua David Stein, Daniel Maurer of New York magazine had simultaneously penned his own opinion as to the identity of this other new anonymous blogger— and released his findings on the very same day. And wouldn’t you know, he, having actually performed some perfunctory investigative work, revealed that the anonymous blogger in question was in fact Gwen Butler from Boston, and not me after all.

This was pointed out (and linked to) by a regular Gawker reader within the comment section of Stein’s reportage. Stein replied to that commenter acknowledging his oversight, but failed to retract or amend his article in any way.

When confronted by me personally within Gawker’s very same commenting system, I was summarily banned from Gawker’s website and my commenting privileges were unconditionally revoked. Gotta love that censorship!


– But wait, there’s more!

How about the time that Josh Ozersky of New York magazine recounted the story of my being asked to leave the premises of Jean Georges?

Ungrammatical Forum Poster Tossed From Jean Georges, Gets Revenge in Ungrammatical Forum Post
We’re always leery of the strange, strange world of Abbe Diaz and her online forum, PX This, but a media alert titled Blogger Tossed From Jean Georges was difficult to resist. As you might expect, Diaz a former maitre d’ at Jean Georges who wrote a dishy book about her experiences in the business was in fact the blogger tossed, a cringe-inducing event publicized by the pilloried herself. (All of Diaz’s entries on PX This read like interminable text messages tapped out by the jittery, manicured thumbnails of an ex-model at Rose Bar at 4 a.m.) We include it here entirely for purposes of education: Remember, if you dog someone you worked for in a book, don’t go to his restaurant unless you know he won’t be around.

Isn’t that lovely? Such an awesomely judgmental critique of an author of a book Josh Ozersky has never read. Yay, journalism!

Luckily, New York magazine has a convenient commenting system also, so here was my (nearly immediate) rebuttal:

How flattering! I would much rather sound like an ex-model at Rose Bar than a sycophantic journalist who gets all his information from press releases, any day of the week.
Here’s another "educational" tip for you: Don’t mistreat your staff members (or people in general, for that matter), because there’s such a thing in the universe called "karma," and its faces are plentiful and powerful.
abbe diaz
PX This.
p.s. Dear [prior commentator] "Bookseller": Grub Street gives me a link, because right now I happen to be the most prominent voice of "the little people."
Ya know, the ones without whom this industry to which Grub Street pays sooo much attention, wouldn’t even exist.

Yup, as you can well imagine, that felt pretty good. Finally an outlet via which I might defend myself against such pejorious journalistic attacks!

Except, not long afterward, New York magazine deleted my comment. It just poof! vanished into thin air.

Gotta love censorship!

Oh and by the way, a little while after the aforementioned incident, it just so happens that Jean-Georges settled a class action lawsuit filed by employees of eight of his eateries for the misappropriation of tip wages earned by staff— to the tune of $1.75 million.


– Still not enough?

How about the times that certain journalists like Curbed’s Ben Leventhal, Eater’s Amanda Kludt, the New York Post, and New York magazine seemingly targeted my husband’s businesses, publishing several FALSE allegations implying inadequacy, inferiority, duplicity, and anti-semitism?

And again, after being disproved every time, they failed to retract, amend, acknowledge, or make any restitutions for their gross and damaging inaccuracies.

Oh I could go on and on and on. And as a mattter of fact, I shall. In my second book (coming soon in April!).
PX Me – The Sequel to PX This

Wanna watch its totally hilarious trailer, which was called “perfection” by the New York Observer and deemed “genius” by Joel Stein of Time magazine? Of course you do. Hooray!



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One Response to “re: Journalists’ Ethics”

  1. Vincent Nunes Says:

    Just found your site – I think you’re doing fantastic work! Best of luck with the lawsuit.

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